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Online rally calling for increased investment in CUNY and SUNY

Feb 18, 2022

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Legislators Join Hundreds of CUNY and SUNY Students, Faculty and Staff to Call for Increased Funding of New York’s Public Higher Education Systems

New York, NY – State legislators, higher education union members and hundreds of SUNY and CUNY students rallied online February 16, 2022, to call for increased investment into the State and City universities of New York and SUNY’s public teaching hospitals. 

Speakers included higher education chairs Sen. Toby Stavisky and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, along with Senator Andrew Gounardes, and Assemblymembers John T. McDonald III and Monica Wallace. 

“Every week should be Higher Education Week,” said Sen. Stavisky in a pre-tapped message. “…we hear you in the Senate. The Assembly hears you. The Governor hears you. There’s nothing like face-to-face–or Zoom–meetings with your legislators to tell them how you feel.”

The event, organized by a statewide coalition of student organizations and academic unions, kicked off  this year’s Higher Education Action Week, where hundreds of students, faculty and staff are meeting with more than 50 lawmakers to advocate for a joint platform for full funding of CUNY and SUNY. 

“Higher education plays an important role in boosting the state’s economy. Yet, for years New York has underfunded higher education to earmark other, flashier economic strategies — some that succeeded and some that failed miserably. Investments in higher education always pay back far more.  While there is a lot to like, Governor Hochul’s budget is simply too limited to turn around higher education and help lift the state’s economy.  That’s why we’re advocating for this Student-Faculty-Staff platform,” said Sadiya Hoque, NYPIRG Chairperson and CUNY Brooklyn College student. 

“There is no better time than right now for our elected leaders to make a significant investment in a higher education system like CUNY. As we still grapple with the impact the pandemic has had on our society at large, the best way forward is to double down on education. By making a strong investment today, we can produce the workforce we need to get our economy back on track. Our professors, students, and staff contribute so much to this state and city. It is time that our leaders provide them with everything they need to take us to the next level,” said Cory Provost, Chair of the University Student Senate of CUNY

“Our students need the legislature to run a full court press on higher education this year. The time is now to invest in our students, our system, and our state. In fact, New York has an obligation and an opportunity to lead within the field of public higher education. SUNY graduates are essential to the health and well-being of New York’s economy, its workforce, and its intellectual and social fabric. This important investment now will help us all overcome the challenges of the pandemic and will strengthen our economy for the families across our state. We’re counting on our champions in government to deliver a slam-dunk this year in the name of academic excellence and student success.” Said Brad Hershenson, President of the SUNY Student Assembly, the Student Government Organization representing the 64 Campuses of SUNY

The governor’s FY2023 Executive Budget proposal contains sorely needed state aid increases for the university systems. But after a generation of state disinvestment, a decade of higher education austerity and two years of a pandemic, New York’s public universities need more. 

“This is the year for the state of New York to step up and make a dramatic investment in public higher education. SUNY and its public teaching hospitals are down $7 billion in state funding since the Great Recession,” said United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D. “After years of disinvestment in SUNY—and our public teaching hospitals in particular—the state has the financial resources necessary to make a strong, lasting commitment to SUNY. While we appreciate the governor’s decision to eliminate the TAP Gap and properly fund the Excelsior Scholarship in her Executive Budget, it’s not nearly enough to begin to repair the financial damage done to our SUNY by decades of cuts and flat budgets. We urge legislators to take a stand—now—for SUNY.”

The coalition of students, faculty and staff is calling for more than $500 million–$250 million each–in additional operating funding for CUNY and SUNY senior colleges and the SUNY teaching hospitals. It is also advocating for additional funds for community colleges, financial aid reforms, infrastructure improvements, and funding to move New York toward a tuition-free future.

“PSC members are fired up, organizing in their districts and lobbying in Albany to reverse years of racialized austerity for CUNY, which serves a population that is predominantly students of color and many who are immigrants,” said PSC President James Davis, Ph.D. “We’re proud to support the statewide student-faculty-staff higher education platform and the New Deal for CUNY. The people of New York build their futures on a CUNY education, and CUNY can be free as it once was. Our students deserve a university replete with full-time faculty, mental health counselors and advisors. Their adjunct faculty should be well-paid and their facilities conducive to learning.”     

“A critical investment in CUNY and SUNY today can create generational change,” said Assembly Member Karines Reyes, Assembly sponsor of the New Deal for CUNY. “Our students have limitless potential, but without an adequate support structure in place only so much of it will be realized. We must fully invest in CUNY and SUNY so that they can provide the education that our scholars need to prosper. A total of $500 million in funding in this budgeting season can change the lives of hundreds of thousands of students for years to come.”

Senator Andrew Gounardes, Senate sponsor of  the New Deal for CUNY bill, said, “On Higher Education Week, I am proud to stand with students, faculty, and staff as they prepare to share their stories with legislators. CUNY has contributed world-renowned research and produced students who have gone on to do great things. Decades of systematic disinvestment have left classes understaffed, ceilings falling on students’ heads, and students who must hold down more than one job to make ends meet. As we look towards our economic recovery from COVID, we must go beyond filling this gap by including full funding for the New Deal for CUNY in this year’s budget. This funding will make it possible for tens of thousands of working and middle class New Yorkers to achieve their potential. By fully funding CUNY, we can send the message that New York will make our public universities an example for the nation to follow.”

“The need for more state funding for our public higher education institutions is clear and we cannot expect students to shoulder the costs through tuition increases anymore. It is time the state makes a real investment in SUNY and CUNY this year so that we can improve enrollment and graduation rates, hire more full-time faculty, and ensure that students can succeed,” said Assemblymember John T. McDonald III.     

“Campuses and public teaching hospitals continue to face difficult decisions concerning the potential elimination of programs and declining services due to inadequate resources,” New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said. “Our SUNY and CUNY systems have long provided a pathway to the middle class for so many New Yorkers, and they must have access to the funding necessary to offer the high-quality programs and services New Yorkers rely on.”

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